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Forum nameOkay Activist Archives
Topic subjectRE: Hmmm,
Topic URLhttp://board.okayplayer.com/okp.php?az=show_topic&forum=22&topic_id=21933&mesg_id=21998
21998, RE: Hmmm,
Posted by murph25, Mon Aug-28-00 02:43 AM
OK, I have a few answers. Sorry if I go on too long here.

>Are you saying that there's
>an ultimate reality that exists
>independent of human perception,

Yes. There must be a reality. Otherwise, what would we be perceiving? Any psychological or scientific understanding of perception has that underlying assumption, and I think it's right.

>that ultimately who I am
>is controlled by that ultimate
>reality alone?

Well, I would not say that environment "controls" behavior per se. The one behaving (the "self") matters. Rather than talk about control at all, I would say that "who I am" emerges from a unique interaction of the environment, and the "self". I believe certain principles tend to govern this interaction, and that SOME of our behavior can be best understood as being "caused by" the environment, but I wouldn't write the brain/body out of the picture. I just see us as part of reality, rather than seeing reality as a part of us (make any sense?).

> So the desk as
>I perceive it isn't real.
> Right? So what
>IS real?

The desk may not appear "solid" at the molecular level when you observe in the microscope, but it is certainly "real", even when observed at that magnification. I'd say it's just another way of percieving that same object. We could clearly never shrink ourselves to a size at which we could pass through the space inside the atoms of the desk, so we experience it as solid. Plus, perception is more than sight. The desk has a physical weight, a texture, a temperature. There are plenty of ways to document and measure its existence through our senses and through the tools of science. It just happens that at a subatomic level, we don't understand it so well (at least I don't).

>Also, if I have no control
>over myself, no say whatsoever
>in who I am or
>what I become, is there
>any point in trying to
>be a better person?
>Does your position argue in favor
>of not doing anything to
>effect individual or social change?

Again, I wouldn't put it in terms of "control" per se. I see the "self" as the sum of all our behavior. And that "self" DOES have some effect on the world, certainly. After all, what we do really is the ultimate agent of social, personal, and environmental change. Ralph Nader said this in reference to Al Gore's record as VP: "to know and not to act is not to know." This is a nice way of rephrasing my ideology about behavior. I think "action" is at the heart of my definition of the self.

Just because we don't have "free will" doesn't mean we should give up and crawl under a rock until we die. Most people like to feel that they are in absolute control of their lives, that they can do anything they "set their mind to". I happen to think we don't have absolute control.

To me, it doesn't matter if you believe in free will or not. I don't think "belief" is a very good predictor of behavior. If anything, I would say "belief" is a way of for us to explain or describe our behavior after the fact. If someone wants to take "not being in ultimate control" as an excuse to twiddle thumbs or mope for the rest of their life, I guess they'll do that (probably would have anyway). But, I don't think it needs to translate into that for me...

As for your discussion with Phraktal on the nature of time, I didn't know where to jump into the conversation, but I'll share some of my thoughts. The question you guys seemed to focus on was "how do I experience time". I think that our subjective "experience" really is (as you suggest) limited by our perceptions. Behaviorists don't have much to say on percieving but cognitive psychologists have a decent set of hypotheses on it, and I'd point to those for answers.

The current belief is that any sensory perception (sight for instance) relies on a series of impulses (raw data) being sent from the sensory organs to other parts of the brain via neurons sending signals. As the raw data moves through the brain, it is organized, which ultimately leads to our conscious perception of whatever is out there. Neurons communicate primarily by electric impulses. As such, neurons cannot communicate instantaneously (although they do it VERY FAST). So, it takes a certain amount of time for a signal to be sent through your brain. In vision, for example, you can flash a stimulus in front of someone so quickly that they physically cannot percieve that it was there, much less "what it was". There are LIMITS to how quickly our brain can latch onto the stimuli in our environment (visual or otherwise).

Thus, one could say we never FULLY percieve time (or reality) as a "flow", but only as a series of herky-jerky moments of perception. At some point, our brain is able to fit all the data from our sensory organs together, and smooth things out. This is how we "consciously" experience vision as continuous (and "in real time"), when it in fact is a series of impulses. Another interesting point that cognitive psychologists make about perception is that our expectations and previous experiences can shape what we percieve, what we remember, etc. They suggest that to an extent, we CONSTRUCT our perceptions based on what we know - that we use perceptual shortcuts to make a complete picture of reality from incomplete data. Thus, we never truly experience reality, time, or anything as it truly exists.

But, as a behaviorist, I feel that perception isn't really the key to unlocking the human mystery. I'm more interested in the nitty gritty of what we do and why we do it than the "how" and "why" of our subjective experiences.

I've gone on too long.